Will Mutua Mworia (Africa) - Africa Social Networking/Social Media Pulse Check

There have been claims that social media/networking is not a priority for a struggling African continent. Will Mutua Mworia, founder of Afrinnovator, discusses the ways in which online presence is benefiting the 'dark continent'.

Back in 2008, in an article on socialmediatoday.com titled ‘Why Social Media in South Africa Will Fail', the author makes a rather daring assertion:

"... social media, social media marketing and social media strategy is an almost pointless pursuit for businesses in South Africa..."

Perhaps the image projected of Africa may in times past have led one to believe that there are other more pressing issues to deal with in Africa. I mean, this is Africa we're talking about, there's hunger and disease to be dealt with before we can consider social media as something of significance to the continent.

Well, that may have been an argument one could have made in times past, however, data shows that Africa is a really dynamic market for social networking. In fact, numbers from socialbakers.com from earlier this year, suggest that as far as the world's most popular social networking platform, Facebook, goes, Africa is gaining users rapidly:

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What is interesting in the table is that Africa is the most dynamic continent on Facebook - gaining more than 50% of its Facebook users in the last 6 months! Highest climbing countries on this continent are well, not surprisingly, Egypt (+1,6 million new users, +43 % change), Nigeria(+1,4 million new users, +83 % change) and South Africa (+750k new users, 25% change).

In fact, Facebook is quite the phenomenon in Africa. The continent's youth are taking to Facebook in droves.

In the same year, 2008, Jonathan Gosier, a leading figure on technology in Africa, also wrote an article at ReadWriteWeb, taking an opposing stance on the idea of social media being pointless to the African context. Jon writes:

"Contrary to popular belief, Africa is not completely absent from the Internet. In fact, the continent at large is undergoing a connectivity revolution unlike anything it has ever seen."

A recent study in East Africa provides further evidence of just how tuned in the region's youth are to social networking.

Of course, the convergence between a highly enlightened generation (what is commonly referred to as the cheetah generation) includes the uptake of mobile telephones and improved connectivity, and the part they have played in this growth. In fact, according to research from Frost & Sullivan and Colibria, mobile social networks will grow ten fold to over 500 million users in Latin America and Africa in the next five years.

The cheetah generation is using social media to revolutionize the continent - socially, economically and even politically. And governments have had to wake up as the young generation has literally over-turned governments by leveraging social media, the cases of Egypt and Tunisia are still fresh in the minds of many.

Mark Davies about trade & the potentials of online social networks in Africa

[VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALYU8ho6Los]

And it's not just all a matter of consuming services created from outside Africa. Africans are active participants in the social media industry, here are a few examples:

Motribe - This South African company enables you to create your own mobile social network with speed and ease. It offers you great social tools to power your mobile social network

MXit - A South Africa-based mobile social network. Over 27 million registered users, with a growth of 40,000 users a day. Check out this cool infographic about MXit

Adloopz - An innovative Nigerian startup that puts a social twist to advertising on the internet

Personera - Personera lets you create custom artifacts from your content on social networking sites like Facebook

Nikohapa - A Kenyan startup that offers Foursquare-like check-ins made simple; rewarding you with discounts for checking in to partner stores

Ushahidi - Crowd source information using multiple channels including social networking platforms like Twitter

Swift River - An Ushahidi project that adds super data processing to data coming from sources of unstructured information (such as a twitter feed)

Zoopy - Another South African company that focuses on mobile video

Quirk e-Marketing - A digital marketing agency that also helps companies make use of social media for great results. Quirk has also spawned other cool companies in social media; such as BrandsEye that creates great tools for online reputation management, and crowd sourcing company IdeaBounty.

As far as group buying is concerned, Groupon has inspired many an African Groupon clone. There are numerous African companies playing in this area -Rupuand Zetu in Kenya, DealDey in Nigeria, and a whole lot of others in South Africa.

So as you may see, Africa has come a long way in social networking and social media. And long may it continue.

By Will M Mworia, founder of Afrinnovator